There’s nothing more rewarding than pursuing your passion. But if you add competing and winning in your field of interest to the mix, then you’re definitely tapping into an indescribable added bonus. Meet Jason Gentles. The Jamaican chef has been on active culinary duty for over 15 years, and having won the 2020 Boston Jerkfest, he is eager to share his journey.
Gentles shared that he developed his love for food over time, and after realising how happy his meals made others, he made the decision to turn this passion into his profession. “People are infatuated with my food!” he told Food.
Born and raised in Kingston, Gentles studied culinary at HEART Trust/NTA, now the HEART College of Hospitality Services in Runaway Bay, St Ann, before honing his skills with some of the most talented and driven professionals in the industry. “I have to thank two wonderful people who have helped to mould me into the chef I am today: former director/principal of HEART’s Northeast Technical Vocational Education and Training Institute, now managing director, Dr Janet Dyer, and caterer Oji Jaja. He taught me a lot and played a major part in my career.”
Declaring that he does not believe in signature dishes, the culinary mastermind explained that he is of the view that all dishes have their own personality, and that what makes every dish significant is the attention paid to all the flavours and spices. “A few of my food specialities include dishes from Jamaica, Mexico, Italy, and Nigeria. I love the many different flavour profiles they present,” he said.
His pure love for the palate translated smoothly as he explored culinary competitions. In his quest, he discovered that it really wasn’t about winning or losing, but rather about the fun and enjoyment of the process, along with accepting the challenge of making a particular dish.
Cooking Up The Win
He entered The Gleaner Grill Off back in 2010 and JCDC, placing second and third, respectively, before cooking up a win this year Boston Jerkfest 2020. “As far as judging during these competitions is concerned, I take constructive criticism well, so I have appreciated all feedback but was happy with my performance overall because each time I cook, I cook with passion.”
Naturally, the industry’s success isn’t without its setbacks. Living and working in the States, one of the issues he has been facing in the culinary industry is his talent being overlooked because of his race. He overcomes these situations by keeping focused. “I know that people enjoy my cooking. I never allowed these situations to determine if I was good and I always keep a positive mind,” Gentles added.
Bringing people from all over from different countries and race together through food brings this good chef immense joy. Food, he shared, gives the chance to unite persons of different diversities with the same common love. With hopes of one day winning the prestigious James Beard Award, Gentles also endeavours to cook on the Wendy Williams Show. “I’m also working on a line of spices and sauces and I am open to selling my recipe ideas to corporate companies.”
His advice to aspiring chefs is to always have discipline, the right attitude, and determination. “Having those three things can take someone a long way within their culinary career because you may have passion but these are the business aspects behind cooking. Without these values, it is so easy to give up and think of yourself as less than amazing. These things strengthen your morals, drive and, most important, your culinary skills.”
Source: The Jamaica Gleaner